In Darrell L. Clarke, Kendra Brooks by Kendra Brooks

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PHILADELPHIA – On June 20, Council President Darrell Clarke (5th District) and Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At-Large) announced that the City will reacquire the liens on 91 parcels of land that local communities have transformed into community gardens. The gardens, which are proven to reduce violence, improve food access, and counter the effects of climate change, are located in neighborhoods with some of the highest rates of violence in the city.

In May 2022, Councilmember Brooks launched the Restore Community Land campaign to urge the City to buy back liens that had been sold to a private lender in 1997. With the support of Council President Clarke, the City will invest $1.1 million to reacquire 91 liens, effectively protecting the gardens from the threat of being sold off by the private lien holder, US Bank, at sheriff’s sale.

“We’re proud to stand here today with Councilmember Brooks and others who’ve championed the idea of community gardens remaining under the supervision of the residents of neighborhoods who’ve cared for these gardens for so many years,” said Council President Darrell Clarke, who worked closely on the issue with Councilmember Brooks. “Neighborhood gardens are treasures for a community, a place where residents can come together, work together, and enjoy the results of their labor together. These gardens should never leave the community’s control. This is an important day for neighborhoods.”

“Over the past 25 years, communities of color have invested time and resources into restoring vacant lots only to watch them get snatched up by wealthy developers and flipped for a profit,” said Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At-Large). “Acquiring the liens on these gardens is an important step, but we still have work to do. Until the gardens belong to the communities who care for them, there will always be a threat that a developer might somehow swoop in and destroy everything the community has built.”

“Community gardens aren’t luxuries, they have the potential to address serious needs like access to affordable healthy food, violence reduction, and community development,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “The City is committed to building thriving neighborhoods and enhancing the quality of life for all residents, that’s why the City is investing $1.1 million to protect 91 parcels of land currently used as community gardens throughout Philadelphia from Sheriff sales.”

“I am glad that the City will buy back the liens on nearly 100 parcels of land that house community gardens!” said Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District). “These community gardens, and the many others like them across the city, build community, reduce food insecurity, teach young people important skills, and save lives. By reclaiming the liens the City unjustly sold, we are showing our neighbors that the City wants to be a partner, not a barrier, to urban agriculture and gardening. Thank you to my colleague, Councilmember Brooks, for her leadership, as well as Council President Clarke, Mayor Kenney, and every other City official and agency who made preserving these community assets possible!”

“For decades community land stewards have invested their own resources turning neglected vacant land into beautiful gardens that benefit their neighborhoods,” said Sari Bernstein, Staff Attorney with Public Interest Law Center. “The City should be commended for acquiring these liens so that community gardens finally have an opportunity to permanently protect these critical green spaces.”

“By acquiring these liens, the city is taking control of formerly abandoned land back from the speculative real estate market,” said Jenny Greenberg of Neighborhood Gardens Trust. “These lots have been cared for and maintained by community members for decades and the Neighborhood Gardens Trust looks forward to working with the city to ensure that they are protected for community gardens for years and generations to come.”

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